White Silence, Sacrifice & Doing the Right Thing

I do not remember the year I began saying on social media, in many different ways,  Black Lives Matter. But I do remember what happened when I did. Friends were lost, of course. But it was the loss of family that disappointed me most. 

I spent every summer and thanksgiving with my Italian family in Chicago. We ate. Laughed. Ate again. Shared stories. We especially loved ghost stories. As an only child, those gatherings filled me up with a sense of togetherness and connection that defined family for me.

There were also times I knew racism existed in my family. There were comments about the violence in black neighborhoods as they lived safely in white neighborhoods. There were some inappropriate “jokes” and the n-word used freely to describe a certain nut. There was the narrative about how “blacks took over our neighborhood”- the south side of Chicago. There was, “Is he black?” every time I met a new guy.

When I got pregnant at 19 with a black man I was afraid to tell my Chicago family. Surprisingly, they were more supportive than I feared. I thought, maybe my daughter and I would be accepted. 

Fast forward to the time I started speaking out against police brutality and white privilege. The family list decreased. Heated discussions took place on timelines. More family fell off the list. But those were just the distant cousins. Then the sickness spread to the first cousins. Ignorant memes were shared and one was specifically called out by my husband, my daughter and myself. When that happened, not only was I unfriended and blocked, but so was my daughter and my husband. I called on the entire family to speak up. To stand for my family. To be the family they so proudly admire.

One called and talked over me about how my daughter is also white and how she was not raised to be racist. Another called and didn’t mention it at all. The rest: silent. Today, even after a few more white people have chosen to be awakened by the lie of white supremacy and the reality of white terrorism, they remain SILENT.

The motto of our family, as told by my father, is to do your duty/to do the right thing.

I asked of my family to do their duty, to do the right thing, to live by our motto, to actually stand for famiglia. Instead they choose to be dutiful to the lie of white supremacy. They choose to be complicit. They choose not to sacrifice comfort and being right. They choose to shy away from conflict. They choose silence. Because of this they have willingly sacrificed members of their own family— the ones that obviously weren’t fully accepted. And, of course they would adamantly disagree.

I too have willingly sacrificed these people, and the day I chose to do so was the day I knew exactly where I stood and what I was willing to sacrifice to do so. It was my duty. It was, and continues to be, the right thing to do, and I do it proudly.

A white woman on Twitter asked how she can be an ally without risk. The black woman she asked responded: Good luck. As Allie (above) said, if you aren’t willing to lose friends AND as I’ve experienced— family, then you are not ready for what this journey of dismantling the lie of white supremacy will require of you.

My ask then of we white people is this: do your duty, do the right thing and get yourself ready. And do it knowing there is no amount of sacrifice, not enough apologies, no amount of money or anything that is of value to you that can make up for centuries of white terror and white silence. Our awakening beyond this false construct of whiteness is way past due.

Re Post: White Spaces~ A Mother’s Reckoning

Original post from August, 2019

The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…

To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.

I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante

I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.

I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.

This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.

To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.

No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.

~Mom

The Soul Reporter

Re Post: White Spaces~ A Mother’s Reckoning

Original post from August, 2019

The parade in our town today clarified what I have done as a white woman with bi-racial children…

To all the times I brought my children to white spaces, moved to white neighborhoods, enrolled them in white schools- I am sorry and deeply ashamed of my ignorance.

I feel it now, more than ever- these words: “white supremacy is not a shark; it is the water. “ Guante

I get a small taste of the terror and discomfort, the trauma of being a brown body in this water. I am angry, which is a privilege of white skin, at the levels of energy it takes to accommodate and appease this white nonsense- to play nice in white work places- and can only imagine their exhaustion.

I feel this whiteness in a way I never have and I’m horrified. As though I’ve fully awakened from a spell that made me live as if this water was made for everyone. It’s not.

This awakening was and is a process that I want ALL white people to be responsible for. To believe in white superiority, to attach to whiteness is one of the biggest lies ever believed. It will crush those who don’t realize this. And so be it because the water is changing.

To my children, I wish I had understood sooner. It was thoughtlessly out of touch of me to be blind to this part of you. I fell in love with a black man. I wanted a family. I believe in the divine within us and most of your upbringing I ignored your experience as also a human being in brown skin, barely swimming in this water, but mostly isolated and struggling not to drown in it.

No apology can erase the impact of this. And I’m not here to give false hopes and promises in a nation still deeply young and divided, struggling to know itself. But I do see you and hold the space for all of you and all of your experiences more than I ever have, and it is my deepest desire that this water nourishes, supports and allows for splashing, deep dives and takes you to wherever you want to go.

~Mom

The Soul Reporter

Trigger warning: are you doing it?

PLEASE READ THIS BECAUSE IT’S IMPORTANT AND I WANT TO BE HEARD, NOT FOR MY STORY, BUT FOR PEOPLE WHO DEAL WITH THIS SHIT EVERY DAY (and stay with me, at the end I have a point that I believe needs to be understood):

I’ve had several conversations and confrontations with family (and others) about race. That is bound to happen when me, a white woman, has sex with a black man and gets pregnant at 19. When I was young and met a new boy, my dad would always ask, “Is he black?” This question always left me with a pit in my stomach. “Yes dad, he’s black.” When I met my now husband at 15 I told my dad about him. My dad asked his usual question and I answered in the usual way, but I followed up with, “But he reads and he’s in a bowling league.”

Just the other day in an environment surrounded by people who serve the oppressed and mentally ill, when it came up my husband was black, the next question was, “Ohhh….(awkward pause)…..what work does he do?” I got that same pit in my stomach. I told her what he did, and felt the urge to follow up with, “And he’s a supervisor,” but I stopped myself. Let me say this loud and fucking clear: I DO NOT NEED TO MAKE MY HUSBAND ANYTHING FOR YOU WHITE PEOPLE. He is the man I chose and choose and our love brought two amazing human beings in the world who have brown skin, and since their early years have been treated differently because of it. I learned early on that I can never ever know or fully understand their experience as biracial girls/women living in this world. This is a hard pill to swallow when as a mother you want to go through everything with them. In this instance, I cannot.

When I get into the conversations and confrontations about race and/or politics for that matter, they don’t go well. I get unfriended, unfollowed and was even told by one family member to go fuck myself and another, “no one likes you.” In none of these instances did a family member even consider what I am standing for- my family of color and not just my family- all families and people of color. To me, this makes no goddam sense. But, whatever. I have had enough confrontations to know that I no longer want to use my energy to argue with the ignorant who are steeped in their biases and prejudices.

But here is what I do want to confront and this is the actual point of this post: I am going to school to be a social worker. I’ve had many years of therapy, on and off, and especially lately there is a buzz word we mental health professionals use a lot and the word is TRIGGER. It’s an important concept and it is one I want people to me more thoughtful of.

When people are traumaitized, whether it is war, hurricanes, robbery, sexual assault, accidents or being of brown skin in this country and living with what is called historical trauma these traumatized people get triggered and it can be by anything, but especially anything that brings up the trauma. After my accident, loud sounds made me jump. I had flashbacks of being in the car. People can develop PTSD if these symptoms persist. Anyway, right now specifically, people of color are being triggered constantly and this is what is so bothersome to me right now.

When people post memes and messages that fits their narrative, that they think is funny but has an underlying message of racism, they are triggering people who don’t find it funny, that are living with historical trauma, and probably on top of very recent trauma. When our stupid president talks shit about NFL players taking a knee- that’s a trigger. When someone likes an ignorant post about players taking a knee that isn’t supportive of their cause, that is a trigger.

The insensitivity I have witnessed and witness at present is startling and heart wrenching. Many people do not seem to be sensitive or thoughtful enough to choose their words and messages and behaviors and even non-verbals with the idea in mind of others- how others feel- how others might experience the world. And, I can already here the grumbling. Sensitivity gets a bad wrap. Who has time, and these libtards and bleeding hearts should just get over it and stop taking everything so seriously. Well, just know that if you’re one of these people that thinks this way, in my opinion you fit in one of two places: you are either in so much pain due to your own trauma that you don’t think it’s safe to be sensitive or you’re just really comfortable and stay comfortable within the world you’ve created with people who look and think like you. Or maybe it’s a combo of both.

Whatever it is I am asking everyone, even those who are already super sensitive and thoughtful and I know who a lot of you are, to be even more thoughtful and sensitive. I am not suggesting we do the emotional work for others and became caretakers. But I am suggesting we really open ourselves beyond our narratives and comforts and biases and even what we find as funny and appropriate and consider our words, actions and behaviors first. We have become such a reactive and impulsive group of people and having a so called leader in the oval who is the most impulsive human I have ever witnessed doesn’t help to make us better. Unless of course we use this very disturbing moment we have with this man to become even more of a bleeding heart- to care even more about people, all people, to commit to never bully another human being or to say ignorant, divisive things. To never ask their child who dates a person of color, “Is he black?” This shit hurts and it’s time we all do our best to NOT CAUSE ANY MORE HARM.

The Soul Reporter via Facebook.

The Denial of White Privilege

The first time I read the essay by Peggy McIntosh on white privilege in college I shook my head in agreement. Then, we discussed the essay in class. There were a few of my fellow white classmates agitated, if not enraged, by the notion that somehow they were privileged. One classmate told her story of the poverty she grew up in and had to fight for everything she had. Since reading this essay, the idea of white privilege has surfaced again. It’s even being used in some of the current political commentary. I notice the same agitation and downright denial from some white people that they are privileged.

Let’s be clear that in accepting or even just considering white privilege does not negate in any way what ever struggles any of us have faced. But let’s also be clear by not even considering the idea we are not listening to another person’s struggles and that’s a problem. Here are just a few of the areas in which Peggy McIntosh noticed where she is privileged just for being white:

  • *I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  • If I should move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing, in an area which I can afford and in which I want to live.
  • I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.
  • I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  • I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systematic racism for their own daily protection.*

There are 45 more of these conditions.

In order to accept or consider privilege means we must sacrifice beliefs and ideas we have about ourselves, society and the world. This idea of privilege, for those agitated by it, pushes against something they think is too precious to give up. What that is I cannot say for certain, but I do have a theory. Is it possible that for some people who reject the idea of their privilege— and let me just say that to defend you are not privileged is in fact a symptom of privilege—is it possible those people do not have room for anyone else to matter because they don’t feel they matter? It is possible some people feel so burdened and know how hard they’ve worked without any acknowledgment that they cannot stand to give space to someone else needing acknowledgment of their struggles?

Could they be saying in the face of privilege—why can’t they work hard? I have worked hard. I struggle and have worries why does theirs mean more than mine? Could they be crying and screaming deep down in their soul—I cannot give you space for your oppression because of the oppression I feel.

Deep down, and for some of us not so deep down, we all feel oppressed. We all feel as though we are struggling with no one to acknowledge our pain. Many of us don’t deal with our pain or feel our feelings. When we have all of this going on inside we may feel threatened if anyone dares suggest we are privileged in any way. However, the idea of white privilege at least as it is presented in the original essay has nothing to do with any of this. It has to do with as white people we don’t think about the color or our skin because as Chris Rock says, “If it’s white, it’s alright.” We weren’t brought here on slave ships. Our white ancestors chose to come here to make their lives better. As white people we have a sense of belonging and place that is given to us just because we are white. For me, that’s the point. For me, it takes nothing from the core of my being to accept I have privilege for being white and for me I’m willing to give it up. I would actually rather not have it because it kinda makes me sick. I am able to give space for another person’s experience even though I will never fully understand that experience. I knew when I had two children by a black man that there would be a part of their existence as black girls and women that I could never understand. That has been a difficult experience for me, but it is a truth I cannot deny and therefore accept and try to be as open as possible with what their experience is as black women.

My desire whenever I speak to someone who is resistant to white privilege is not that they accept it fully, but that they just consider it. When we consider anything we are being open to more than our own ideas we cling to because often those ideas we cling to the most are the very ideas that hold us back from our growth. My other desire is for people to make space and open to their own pain—to acknowledge the struggles they have faced and feel whatever feelings come from it, which is most often grief. Many of us need to grieve for the many losses and traumas that have happened to us. When we do not we not only abandon ourselves, but everyone around us. This is a time to come together, not to abandon each other.

Namaste,

The Soul Reporter

 

*The conditions listed come from the essay, White Privilege and Male Privilege by Peggy McIntosh listed in the Catherine Core Reader published by Saint Catherine University in 2014.